Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, artist, and an Emmy-nominated and Webby-winning producer with more than twenty years of experience in the arts and social justice.

Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, artist, and an Emmy-nominated and Webby-winning producer with more than twenty years of experience in the arts and social justice.

Selvaratnam is a Co-Founder of The Federation: a coalition of artists, organizations, and allies committed to keeping cultural borders open and showing how art unites us. Selvaratnam’s collaborators are the artist Laurie Anderson and the producer Laura Michalchyshyn. She is also a team member and advisor of For Freedoms’s 50 State Initiative to spark civic engagement and public discourse through the arts. Currently, she is producing for The Shed, a new NYC multi-arts center opening in Spring 2019; GLAMOUR Women of the Year; and UNSTOPPABLE ART/Planned Parenthood. For more than a decade, she has been a producer with Aubin Pictures (founded by Catherine Gund). For nine years, she was the Communications and Special Projects Officer for the Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation, based in Miami, FL.

Selvaratnam’s career in the arts and social justice began with her work assisting Anna Deavere Smith on the development of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 about the human toll of the L.A. riots, and with her position as a youth organizer on the steering committee of the NGO Forum/Fourth World Conference on Women in China in 1995. In addition, she was an organizer and researcher for the World Health Organization’s Kobe Conference on Women and Tobacco in 1999.  

Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Long Beach, CA, Selvaratnam is based in New York City and Portland, Oregon. She has been a fellow at Yaddo and Blue Mountain Center. She is the author of THE BIG LIE: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock; and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, CNN, McSweeney’s, Artsy, Art Basel Magazine, and more. In her various roles, she has been quoted in publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, CNN, Hyperallergic, Slate, artnet, ARTNews, The Art Newspaper, Artforum, Cosmo, Redbook, Metro, Village Voice, New York, Die Zeit (Germany), and The Globe and Mail (Canada). She has been a featured guest on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, NPR, WNYC, KCRW, Sirius XM, Modern Hero TV, and CBS Radio News.

Selvaratnam has participated in panels and conferences around the world, from Kobe, Japan to Abu Dhabi to Hanover, Germany to Aspen, Colorado. She has spoken on a variety of subjects, including the rights and safety of women and children, and the interplay of art and democracy. She has also conducted workshops with students of all ages, from elementary school through graduate school. In May 2017, she received a Woman of Resilience Award from The Memo, a vocational boot-camp for young women of color.

Selvaratnam's producing range includes films, branded content, live events, and exhibitions. She has produced films by Gabri Christa, Chiara Clemente, Lisa Cortés, Liz Garbus, Catherine Gund, Le Tigre and Laura Parnes, Tiffany Shlain, Mickalene Thomas, Lucy Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, and Jed Weintrob, among others. Her films have played on HBO, IFC, PBS, Starz, and the Sundance Channel; and have premiered at Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, and SXSW. Selvaratnam has worked on projects at the Guggenheim Museum, Kennedy Center, The Kitchen, Park Avenue Armory, PS122, and Rubell Family Collection.

As a performer, Selvaratnam has toured around the world with companies including The Wooster Group and The Builders Association; and been a guest actor at New Dramatists, Lincoln Center Directors Lab, Voice & Vision Theater, and the Institute on Arts and Civic Dialogue. She has played on stages at prestigious venues around the world, such as New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music and Lincoln Center, London’s Barbican Theatre, and Singapore’s Victoria Theatre. 

She has served on the boards of the Third Wave Fund, Boom Arts, The Wooster Group, and Groundswell Community Mural Project; and is an advisor to The DO School, a Germany-based and internationally focused creative educational organization that offers learning experiences to generate global impact.

She received her graduate and undergraduate degrees in Chinese language and legal history from Harvard University. Her Masters thesis on women’s organizations in post-Tiananmen China was published in the Journal of Law and Politics.

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TANYA SELVARATNAM

Photo by Thomas Dozol.